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A software update to the Eclipse 500 jet will solve a problem that was the subject of a recent FAA emergency airworthiness
directive, Eclipse Aviation said on Tuesday. Earlier this month, two pilots on approach to Midway Airport in Chicago experienced a throttle failure, resulting in maximum uncontrolled
thrust from both Pratt & Whitney Canada PW601F turbofan engines. Eclipse says its solution will increase the range limit of the throttle quadrant assembly to prevent the fault condition from
occurring. The fix requires approval from the FAA. Eclipse also has updated the Eclipse 500 flight manual and quick reference handbook to include procedures for handling a similar incident. In the
Midway incident, the FAA said, the pilot applied full throttle with enough force against the forward stops to exceed the design throttle position signal maximum range. The associated fault mode held
the engine thrust settings at the last known throttle position, which was maximum. The pilots were able to land safely after shutting down one engine and declaring an emergency.
Eclipse also announced on Tuesday that of all the Eclipse 500 aircraft in customer operation, more than 80 percent have been inspected as directed by the AD. Of this group of inspected aircraft,
seven have reported fault errors. Four of those seven fault reports were determined to be erroneous due to noise caused by normal operation of the throttle quadrant assembly. "Interestingly, an
analysis of more than 12,000 hours of flight data from across our fleet collected through the Eclipse Flight Operational Quality Assurance (FOQA) system reveals that three Eclipse 500 aircraft have
experienced the TQA range exceedance fault, and one was the aircraft in Chicago," said Eclipse CEO Vern Raburn. "While this tells us there is an extremely low probability of this fault happening, we
are moving very aggressively to ensure it will not occur again. We're working closely with both the staff members of the NTSB and the FAA to understand this condition fully, and put the necessary
design improvements in place to safeguard our customers and our fleet."
As part of FAA's ongoing effort to harmonize its paperwork and procedures with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the
form for filing a flight plan is about to change, but only for IFR flights that include RNAV arrival or departure routing. Pilots filing VFR, or filing IFR but without the RNAV arrivals or departures,
can continue to file using the usual flight plan format. Pilots filing point-to-point (RNAV direct) and "T routes" also are not affected. The format change, which takes effect at 0900 UTC June 29, is
being made to help expedite the FAA's transition to a new en route computer system for Air Route Traffic Control Centers. Click here for the text of FAA's Letter to Airmen. Pilots affected by the change can find more information, including FAQs and step-by-step filing instructions, at the FAA Web site.
The FAA site also includes contact information, with e-mail addresses and phone numbers, to answer any questions. The changes will affect only about 10 percent of general aviation flights, says AOPA. Lockheed Martin flight service station specialists will be trained to help pilots file the new
flight plan. "The ICAO flight plan is necessary because it collects more detailed information about actual avionics equipage and aircraft capability," said Melissa Rudinger, AOPA vice president of
regulatory affairs. "This in turn allows ATC to match the most efficient routing to the aircraft capabilities, resulting in better service to pilots." Pilots with questions about the change can also
contact AOPA for more information.
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The FAA brought together 325 experts last week to spend three days discussing the problem of fatigue in aviation operations, and
the agency says the symposium produced agreement on two major points -- fatigue is a problem, and something should be done about it. No, we're not kidding -- that's from the FAA news release. "The FAA hopes the participating individuals and organizations will use the information
and concepts shared during the symposium as a springboard to develop effective fatigue management strategies," the agency says. We're not sure what those strategies might be (dogs in the cockpit?),
but reading the FAA's news release is probably not one of them. So in the interest of battling fatigue, we'll summarize. "Many experts consider the key to addressing the problem [to be] scientifically
based fatigue risk management systems," the FAA says. Those guiding scientific principles should be developed through "enhanced data collection." Just to keep us off-balance (and alert), the FAA
turned up one useful suggestion -- it was noted that employees who excuse themselves from duty due to fatigue should not be penalized.
"The conferees recognized that incorporating fatigue risk-management systems into everyday operations is the ultimate goal, but doing so will take innovation in addressing a myriad of regulatory
issues," the FAA concluded, and we hope you stayed awake till the end of that sentence.
Pilots generally seek to avoid flying in clouds with "known icing," but "unknown icing" also lurks out there -- that is, our ability to
predict and pinpoint which clouds harbor icing conditions is not precise. Now a team of engineers at Rowan University, in
New Jersey, is working on a way to enable pilots to detect the threat of icing while en route, in time to change course. The team created ice clouds in a cloud chamber with ice crystals identical to
those found in real clouds. They then projected a laser beam through the cloud and measured its change in polarization, which is dependent on the size, shape and distribution of ice crystals. The
polarization is invisible to the naked eye, but can be measured using sensitive lenses and photodetectors. Eventually, this process could enable a pilot to use low-power lasers to detect the crystals
in time to allow the plane to avoid the crystal-bearing clouds, the researchers say.
"No one has previously done what we are doing in terms of this lab scale and the ability to vary as many elements," said Todd Nilsen, one of the researchers working on the project. The team,
consisting mainly of undergraduates, spent two semesters to build the cloud chamber and develop the research project, funded by a $5,000 grant. The ability to re-create ice crystals that have the same
characteristics as those found in nature, on such a small scale, will make it possible to conduct further research with little financial burden.
United Air Lines will reduce its fleet by 100 aircraft, putting 950 pilots out of work, the company said on Monday. "This
process is one of the difficult but necessary steps we need to take to size our business appropriately to reflect the current market reality," the company said in a memo to pilots. By the end of next year, United plans to cut 94 B737s and six B747s from
its fleet. While United is the first major U.S. airline to cut flight crews in response to the current economic woes, USA Today says it may not be the last. The newspaper cites a recent study that predicts if oil
prices remain at the current $130 to $140 per barrel, about 11,500 pilot jobs will likely be lost.
Last week, hundreds of United workers rallied in protest of the airline's decision to set aside
stock worth about $130 million for a new incentive plan for executives, while at the same time the company plans to cut routes and lay off up to 1,600 employees, USA Today reported.
A Skyship 600 will be tested by the U.S. Navy this summer off the coast of Florida to evaluate its performance as a surveillance
aircraft. Working with the Coast Guard, the Navy will collect data about the utility and cost-effectiveness of airships in this role. The ship will carry a crew of three on patrols of up to eight
hours to test both the systems and crew fatigue. The ship's cabin, with room for up to 12 passengers, has plenty of space for surveillance equipment, and vibration is minimal. It can fly for up to 52
hours without refueling, and consumes only about 10 to 12 gallons of fuel per hour. The airship's ability to deploy to an area of operation, lift a sizeable payload, provide a stable platform for
sensors, and stay aloft for long periods is unique, according to the Coast Guard.
The airship is owned and operated by Airship Management Services and leased by the Navy. It requires a crew of 20, including two pilots, three engineers and 15 ground crew. While on the ground, the
ship's systems are monitored by a watchman located at the airship at all times.
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A new owner and management team have taken over the WACO Classic
Aircraft Corp., in Battle Creek, Mich., which manufactures the WACO YMF-5 Super 1930s-style radial-engine biplane. Peter Bowers, president of Centennial Aircraft Services, also based in Battle Creek, will now be president of WACO as well. WACO will continue to manufacture and support traditional aircraft, as well as
provide maintenance and services for GA piston aircraft, according to a news release. Bowers also plans to expand the company's restoration and maintenance services for vintage and historic
The company has manufactured FAA-certified biplanes under the original 50-year-old WACO type certificate since 1986. In 1991, the WACO YMF Super was introduced, with a wider cabin, more legroom,
increased useful load, a balanced rudder and a large front entry door. The company will have an airplane on exhibit at EAA AirVenture in
Oshkosh, coming up next month.
A 2006 Cessna 172S Skyhawk with three men aboard that had departed San Diego's Montgomery field at 1 p.m. Sunday was returning from
Long Beach later in the afternoon when it crashed and sank approximately 1.5 miles off the coast, near Oceanside, Calif.. One man, a passenger aboard the Skyhawk, was rescued by boaters and delivered
to a local hospital for treatment of shock and a broken leg. The crash was reported by a pilot who witnessed it from another aircraft shortly after 5 p.m. local time, according to local news reports.
Oceanside police told a local news affiliate that the pilot of the accident aircraft was "recently certified." It is not known how long the survivor rescued Sunday had been in the water. An aerial
search for the other two men had been called off by 9:00 p.m. due to thick fog over the water. (Various news reports listed visibility at anywhere from 20 feet to 600 feet.) A Coast Guard Cutter
dispatched to the area was to remain on site late into the evening. The aircraft was owned by San Diego Flight Training International Inc. Searchers Sunday found no evidence of it in the water.
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A lifelong pilot who was inspired by a young Glenn Curtiss, watched Lindbergh take off from Long Island and held a current instrument rating until he was at least 96 years old, died peacefully in a
Poughkeepsie, N.Y., hospital on Sunday. John Miller was 102. As he told AVweb in a 2002 interview, he saw his first airplane when Curtiss landed in a nearby field on his way to claiming a $10,000 prize for flying from Albany to New York City. Miller was smitten from the age of
four and taught himself to fly in a barnstormer's discarded ride plane when he was 18. He liked to say his flying career covered "Jennys to jets" and there was a lot of ground in between.
While he flew everything from mail airplanes to commercial airliners and was a military test pilot, Miller was perhaps best-known for his work with autogyros. In later years, he flew himself around
the country in his beloved Bonanza and when we talked to him at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh in 2002 he was getting ready to fly home. Flying was never far from his mind, even in his last days. Two days
before he died of natural causes, he told his grandson Robin Moore, "I guess my flying days are over." He donated his body to science and there will be no public funeral, at his request.
We spend most of our time in cruise flight, yet little training time is devoted to the finer points of savvy straight and level.
Unless you're someone like Sean Tucker or Patty Wagstaff, or one of the Blue Angels, you probably spend most of your time in the left seat of an
airplane flying it straight and level. I know I do, since I'm usually going somewhere, even if it's only a quick flight to and from a nearby airport to warm the oil before changing it. Meanwhile, we
spend a lot of time worrying about the aerodynamics associated with stalls, slips, spins and such, even though we rarely find ourselves performing those maneuvers.
Despite all the necessary and detailed discussion of maneuvering flight, many pilots are not well-versed on the options available to them when trying to cover the distance between Point A and Point B.
Sure, climb to altitude, set power, set the autopilot, pop open a soda and, hopefully, listen to something other than ATC for a few hours. But how best to balance groundspeed against fuel consumption?
At what speed should you be flying to stretch your fuel supply? And -- something pretty basic -- how to transition from a climb to straight-and level? Let's take a look.
There Is No Step
For the longest time, whenever a group of pilots got together, they often ended up talking about what it took to get one type of plane or another "on the step." They were referring to a specific
airplane attitude, similar to that achieved when a seaplane rides the water on the flat, aft area of its hull or floats where drag is minimized. Achieving this attitude, so the theory goes, allows a
higher cruise speed for a given power setting.
Step advocates believed the magical and mystical airplane attitude could be achieved by climbing slightly above one's desired cruising altitude, setting cruise power and allowing the airplane to
accelerate. Once the airplane was stable, it would be pitched down slightly and allowed to accelerate in the shallow dive, descending to the desired cruising altitude. The theory was the slight
nose-down pitch attitude -- and higher speed attained in the shallow dive -- could be maintained, minimizing drag for the chosen power setting and allowing a higher cruise speed than might be obtained
There is no such thing.
Instead, there is a right way and a wrong way to transition from climb to cruise. Whether you employ the method described above or if you directly level off at your desired cruising altitude on
reaching it doesn't really matter. Presuming the airplane is being flown on the front side of the power curve, lowering the nose to an attitude approximating that necessary for cruise flight -- while
leaving the power set for the climb -- will result in the airplane finding its own cruise attitude and airspeed in short order.
At that point, all you need to do is set your desired cruise power -- if other than what you used for the climb -- re-trim and watch the airspeed indicator settle into its rightful spot. Once the
airplane stabilizes, presuming the power setting remains constant, any airspeed deviation results from disturbing that attitude, regardless of whether the disturbance results from a gust, from pilot
input or from a change in the airplane's weight or center of gravity.
Choosing a Cruise Speed
Regardless of how we achieve our desired cruise speed, we have to choose one. Our choice, of course, can be as simple as pushing all the power controls as far toward the firewall as they will go and
accepting the results. Generally, however, we won't be able to do this very long, since full-throttle/full-rich fuel consumption won't allow it. Neither will our wallets.
Most of us want to go as fast as we can when cruising. We'll set up a cruise power setting, one somewhat less than everything-forward full power, lean the mixture appropriately and settle in for the
trip. But, sometimes, we'll want a different power setting. Examples might include a setting for maximum range, one for maximum endurance, one for holding and one for turbulence penetration. How we go
about finding those power settings can get us into an overly complicated calculus involving engine and propeller efficiency, airplane gross weight, altitude and atmospheric conditions, plus headwinds
and tailwinds. For the flights most of us take, a lot of this is overkill. If, on the other hand, we're trying to emulate Charles Lindbergh and make Paris from New York on one tank of gas, it becomes
a lot more important.
The sidebar above right, "Range Vs. Endurance," explores some of the variables associated with picking an airspeed/power-setting combination optimized for either range or endurance -- you can't have
both. What the chart at the bottom right doesn't show, however, is the power setting we should use for maximum range generally will decrease when the airplane's gross weight decreases as we burn off
fuel. Conversely, the power necessary for maximum endurance -- already at a minimum setting -- won't change. When considering endurance, of course, we're just trying to stay in the air; with range,
we're trying to get somewhere far, far away.
All this theory is well and good, of course, but it doesn't directly relate to your airplane. Or does it? It does in the sense that you always have to fly the airspeed appropriate to your airplane for
that day's atmospheric conditions, weight and mission. That's where your AFM/POH comes in.
Weight and Altitude
The effect of altitude on the propeller-driven airplane's cruise performance can be dramatic. As the bottom of the two graphs above depict, a flight conducted at a relatively high altitude and at its
most-efficient angle of attack (AOA) will have a greater true airspeed than at a lower level. There being no free lunch, however, we'll need more power to maintain that AOA.
The reason is fairly simple: Presuming we're able to climb to and cruise at that higher altitude, the AOA producing the greatest amount of lift for the least drag -- (L/D)MAX -- will
produce the same drag as at sea level. Because the air is thinner, less lift (and less drag) is produced establishing the correct AOA. This will require a higher airspeed (true or indicated) than at
lower altitudes, thus more power is necessary.
Cruising at a higher altitude also requires a greater expenditure in time and fuel in the climb. The calculus of deciding whether it's beneficial to climb to a higher altitude is beyond this article's
scope, however. It can be a complicated formula comparing the departure and destination airports' elevations, forecast temperatures and winds aloft, airplane weight at takeoff and landing, routing
changes, if any, and whether the airplane is normally aspirated, turbocharged or turbine-powered.
For the propeller-driven airplanes most of us fly, specific fuel consumption and propeller efficiency are the principal variables determining whether range will increase or decrease with altitude.
However, cruising at as high an altitude as the trip's length allows, consistent with oxygen and equipment requirements, is always a better bet. That's because we usually do not cruise at an AOA
coincident with (L/D)MAX, but at one generating greater lift and drag in exchange for speed.
When considering a normally aspirated piston-powered airplane versus an identical model with turbocharging, the results are predictable: Says the PHAK, an "advantage ... is that the cruise power may
be maintained at high altitude, and the airplane may achieve the range at high altitude with the corresponding increase in true airspeed. The principal differences in the high-altitude cruise and
low-altitude cruise are the true airspeeds and climb fuel requirements." Duh.
Finally comes the airplane's weight in considering cruise performance. Again, the FAA: "At the beginning of cruise flight, the relatively high initial weight of the airplane will require specific
values of airspeed, altitude, and power setting to produce the recommended cruise condition. As fuel is consumed and the airplane's gross weight decreases, the optimum airspeed and power setting may
decrease, or the optimum altitude may increase. In addition, the optimum specific range will increase. Therefore, the pilot must provide the proper cruise control procedure to ensure that optimum
conditions are maintained."
In The Real World ...
All this theory is fine and good, but what's a pilot to do when trying to decide an altitude, power setting and airspeed to fly? In my mind, the correct answer depends on three main things: trip
length, winds aloft and airspace. I've been known to fly a 500-plus-mile trip at 2500 feet MSL to escape ferocious headwinds at higher altitudes, a route I've also flown at 13,000 feet to take
advantage of opposite direction winds of the same velocity.
When it comes to power settings, I firewall the throttle on the takeoff roll and leave it there until I'm letting down for my destination, managing power by manipulating the red and blue knobs. On
only one occasion in recent years have I considered pulling back the throttle, slowing down and conserving fuel. That was a flight from Scottsdale, Ariz., to Manassas, Va., one that I easily could
have completed non-stop if I'd slowed down. Yes, the winds were that good. In the event, I made a very quick fuel stop outside Oklahoma City to fill some containers and empty another, climbed back
aboard and motored on home. It was a long day spent almost totally in cruise at 15,000 feet, watching the world go by. Try it sometime.
More articles to help you become a better pilot are available in AVweb's Airmanship section. And for monthly articles about safety, subscribe to AVweb's sister
publication, Aviation Safety.
Can glamor and a "can-do" attitude create a practical, saleable and functional aircraft for under $140,000? Marc Cook, the editor of our sister publication Kitplanes, says he'll believe it when he sees the much-vaunted ICON fly.
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Last week, we asked a question originally put to us by AVweb reader Brett Friermood: "What's your favorite type of instrument panel?" Answers vary a bit around the AVweb
offices, but reader preferences are pretty clear, with 55% of you chiming in to say you prefer a nice assortment of steam gauges with a GPS display.
For a complete (real-time) breakdown of reader responses, click here. (You may be asked to register and answer if you haven't already participated in this poll.)
THIS WEEK'S QUESTION ***
Fuel prices toppped $7 a gallon in Detroit earlier this week, and the U.S. average for 100LL is currently sitting at $5.54/gallon according to our own Fuel Finder. This week, we want
to know where (and if) you draw the line at paying for ever more expensive fuel.
Our sister magazine, Aviation Consumer, is preparing a survey on conducting an extensive customer survey on headset quality, performance and comfort. We
would love to hear from readers everywhere about their headset experiences. The survey takes just a few minutes.
Our best stories start with you. If you've heard something 200,000 pilots might want to know about, tell us. Submit news tips
via email to email@example.com. You're a part of our team ... often, the best part.
Make Plans Now to Attend a 2008 Savvy Aviator Seminar
Mike Busch will be conducting Savvy Aviator Seminars in Rapid City, SD and Santa Maria, CA. Sign up for one of these classes and learn how to save thousands of dollars on maintenance costs,
year after year. Do it before your next annual inspection!
For complete details
and to reserve your space, click here.
AVweb founder Mike Busch has been selected by the FAA and supporting aviation organizations as the National Maintenance Technician of the Year. Busch will be presented his award
at a ceremony during EAA AirVenture.
The crash on takeoff of a 509th Air Wing, Air Force B-2 Spirit bomber, February 23 operating at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, was caused by water in the aircraft's sensors, according
to an Air Combat report issued Thursday. Specifically, moisture in three port transducer units "distorted data introduced by a B-2 Spirit's air data system" which led to flawed information entering
the bomber's flight control computers. The aircraft was reacting to inaccurate airspeed and a "perceived" negative angle of attack. This resulted in an "uncommanded 30 degree nose-high pitch-up on
takeoff," according to the Air Force.
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AVweb reader Andy Couch explained how Aeroflight delivered that all-important personal touch:
As I taxied to the FBO, a lineperson came out to meet me and directed me to a tiedown; I didn't have to wander about the ramp, looking for a place to park. The lineperson helped me with my baggage and
with my ground transportation. When I returned to the FBO a few days later to depart, I used both the computer-based flight planning services the FBO made available and the FBO's telephone to contact
Flight Service. ... I was treated as if I were Bill Gates flying my personal bizjet instead of a piston-engine GA driver who purchased only 54 gallons of 100LL.
Each week, we go through dozens (and sometimes hundreds) of reader-submitted photos and pick the very best to share with you on Thursday mornings. The top photos are featured
on AVweb's home page, and one photo that stands above the others is awarded an AVweb baseball cap as our "Picture of the Week." Want to
see your photo on AVweb.com? Click here to submit it to our weekly contest.
*** THIS WEEK'S WINNERS ***
With well over 100 submissions to this week's contest, we're serving up a miniature "Greatest Hits" version of our regular "Picture of the Week" contest. We've got
all the popular themes this week from wing-walkers to lightning to balloons. And you're sure to find many other favorites (cute kids, beautiful skylines, and perfect approaches among them) in
the "POTW" slideshow on AVweb's home page.
Gene Soucy and Teresa Stokes, Twilight Show at Québec International
William Derrickson of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania kicks off the festivities with the afore-mentioned wing-walker. Air show performers Gene Soucy and
Teresa Stokes are seen here entertaining the crowds at the Québec International Air Show, and William captured the moment to share with the rest of us later. Absolutely gorgeous.
Long-time readers who are familiar with our taste in pictures will tell you it just wouldn't be a "Greatest Hits" edition without a float plane and right on cue, we've
got Mike Radford of Anchorage, Alaska flying in to pick up two clients at Twin Lakes. "It was a real nice morning with a glassy-water landing,"
writes Mike. "The only disturbance on the water was me."
And then there's lightning. Deadly, beautiful, and often a colossal pain in the flight plan, it nevertheless makes for some spectacular photos. Bryan
Bolander of Lansing, Michigan tells us this storm rolled in on the night of the Otsego Lake Splash-In. "Luckily it went around us, but the light show was impressive," writes
Some of you may be saying it's not really a greatest hits edition without a sunset or skyscape to fly us out you'll find those in the slideshow but we think this image from Chris Cook of Lebanon, Tennessee perfectly captures the solitary grace of flight that we
like to use as our sign-off.
A quick note for submitters: If you've got several photos that you feel are "POTW" material, your best bet is to submit them one-a-week! That gives your photos a greater
chance of seeing print on AVweb, and it makes the selection process a little easier on us, too. ;)
A Reminder About Copyrights:
Please take a moment to consider the source of your image before submitting to our "Picture of the Week" contest. If you did not take the photo yourself, ask yourself if you are indeed authorized to
release publication rights to AVweb. If you're uncertain, consult the POTW Rules or or send us an e-mail.
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AVwebFlash is a weekly summary of the latest news, articles, products, features, and events featured on AVweb, the internet's aviation magazine and news service.
The AVwebFlash team is:
Publisher Timothy Cole
Editorial Director, Aviation Publications Paul Bertorelli
Editor-in-Chief Russ Niles
Contributing Editors Mary Grady Glenn Pew
Features Editor Kevin Lane-Cummings
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